At times I forget the comfort and carthisis of writing. I halted my every-other-week wine column in 2017 after 10 years of writing.
So I thought I’d do a quick bit on Christmas shopping for wine. It’s the kind of column I frankly got tired of every year but after three years working in retail wine sales I’ve gained a considerable amount of perspective.
This is my fourth Christmas at the shop and this busy week of sales reminds me of many suggestions I’ve made in the past and perhaps a few new ones.
First, if you’re going to gift wine go to a shop specializing in wine. Yes, you can get a bottle in lots of places but at most shops you’re going to get sales people who have a serious interest in vino and a willingness to help you.
The night before writing this column I put in six hours at the shop. I helped several customers, with limited knowledge, pick out gifts. That is probably the most rewarding part of the job – helping others gift and enjoy a good bottle.
First, do you have any idea what the person you’re buying for enjoys? Does the person like red, white? Do they like bold wines? Perhaps they like all sorts of wines and enjoy exploring.
You might be surprised that more than 5,000 grape varietals around the world can be made into wine. Now, no shop carries that many but good shopping spots will have lots of choices.
The wine sales person is there to help you navigate, let them. It does not matter at all what you know about wine just trust the sales person and insist on choices.
If you take nothing from these few words take this – know what you want to spend. It really surprises me the people who come in our shop and haven’t given it much thought. We have Cab that starts in the low to mid teens and goes up. We have Napa Cab, some including me, which many consider the best in the world. We carry Napa Cab ranging from $24.99 to more than $300 a bottle. Know what you want to spend!
There are shops and sales people, unfortunately, who will try to sell you above what you might want to spend. How do you deal with them? Easy. Tell them what you are comfortable spending and ask them to show you one at that price along with their best at a little higher and a little lower price.
I’d also encourage you to try something new for your friend or relative. If they like Cabernet, try a bold Zinfandel, Tannat, Merlot, or many others. And yes, Merlot! The wine has improved ten-fold since the 90s and early part of this decade. If your friend like Chardonnay try a French Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc. Explore the world of Italian whites – Vermentino is a great lemony wine.
But let the pros help you. And, there is always gift cards.